WCR Logo


June 29, 2015

Fifty years after his murder on June 22, 1965 in the Dominican Republic, efforts are being made to remember Scarboro Father Art MacKinnon. According to a report in The Catholic Register, Bishop Brian Dunn of Antigonish was to celebrate a memorial Mass for MacKinnon in his childhood home of New Waterford, N.S.

MacKinnon, the son of a Cape Breton coal miner, was 27 in 1959 when he was ordained a priest and soon after was sent to the Dominican Republic where the Scarboro Fathers were active. The country was suffering through the last years of the brutal dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo who ruled it with an iron fist for 31 years. When Trujillo was assassinated in 1961, widespread celebrations ensued.

The celebrations were short-lived, however, as the country descended into political chaos. Shortly after rebels seized the capital city in April 1965 demanding the return of an elected, reformist president overthrown in a military coup, U.S. President Lyndon Johnson sent in the Marines to put down the rebellion.

Through all this, MacKinnon was outspoken in favour of the rebels and worked diligently to get innocent people suspected of being rebels freed from jail. On June 17, the feast of Corpus Christi, soldiers with machine guns were posted at the door of his parish church.

Conflicting stories emerged about MacKinnon's murder. The most accepted version is that he was taken from his home and shot at close range by two plainclothes policemen outside an army barracks.

MacKinnon was a man from a humble background who gave his life to the Lord and then to the people of a faraway country. When he saw the dignity of those people being trodden upon, he stood up for them and paid the ultimate price. MacKinnon will probably never be canonized. But he shouldn't be forgotten. He is a reminder than just as Jesus gave his life for us, so too many of his followers have sacrificed theirs, including some from our own country.